Nick Jacobs


As a child, I had a few secret places where fear died, where my thoughts came alive, and the words I spoke came out just like I wanted. In those secret places, life happened unafraid, and I felt free to feel and express my thoughts. Those secret places were originally little kid places, and those dreams were young dreams and ideas.

Initially, I found solitude and refuge under the antique bed of my childhood bedroom where not only my mother and her seven brothers and sisters had been born, but where they had also presumably been conceived. Hiding under that bed was not only my safe place, it was also a quiet, protected, inner sanctum that felt like a carefully designed cocoon of warmth.

In those rare times in my childhood home when voices were raised, a disciplined look of displeasure was given, an external thunderstorm approached, or a family health-related drama was unfolding, I’d run to my room and easily slide under that bed into my inner sanctum. It was surrounded by a floor-length dust ruffle and protected me from the challenges of the outside world or the realities of the world within.

As I grew older, my secret places became more sophisticated as did my challenges and dreams, but the feeling of protection from harm enhanced my ability to openly think, create, dream and fantasize. These places represented my haven, my studio where life could be joyfully embraced unafraid.

In life, we should always be careful to gate those things which keep us safe and fearless because we know absolutely and unequivocally that fear stops everything. Not only does fear stop all, it also forces life itself to pass us by while we crawl into our mentally constructed fetal position to cringe and hide emotionally and intellectually.

When we are frozen in fear, we can’t think clearly, move purposefully or act normally. And fear-driven secret places often plunge us into elaborate matrices of mentally twisted labyrinths that lead to more fear and allow contorted conspiracies to thrive in our limitless web of disassociated grey matter.

Fear has been the tool of tyrants and autocrats since the beginning of time. They knew if the masses could be controlled by anything, they definitely could be controlled by fear. It is the most accurate arrow in the quiver of the takers in our society. Keep the masses fearing the enemy, an enemy that they have manufactured for them, and that will control them.

I saw a meme describing what happens when a group of red ants are mixed with a group of black ants in a jar. They will cohabitate effortlessly unless the jar is shaken. When that happens, the red and black ants will fight each other to the death. They turn their hatred toward each other rather than to the person who is shaking the jar, the real enemy.

I read the following from an unknown source, “Bridges are burned fighting for a truth that really only matters in a world of power. When the only power I want to have is the courage to simply say: I feel alive where you are. I am better when you can see me ... I know now that we can walk away ...’”

The most critical portion of that quote is the recognition that the person we all need to walk away from is the one who is shaking the jar for their own political, economic or autocratic power. It is up to us individually to recognize when we are being manipulated and shaken into a state of fear where we cannot even find peace in our secret places. We need once again to find refuge in each other’s arms. We are the red and the black ants being manipulated by the shakers for their own benefit. Learn to recognize that hand around the jar. We are not our enemy.

Nick Jacobs of Pittsburgh is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and author of the book “Taking the Hell Out of Healthcare.”

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